Saturday, January 24, 2009

Krikor N. Der Hohannesian: TAVLOU

O grand ancient game, upholder of
family honor, Judas to reputations. Your
board a replica of Byzantine splendor, in-laid
mother-of-pearl, Javan teak points, die of
African ivory – we learned your caprices early,

toughened our psychic skins against barrages
of insults, learned to play fast and snap
the checkers, memorized Turkish terms –
shesh besh,, penge u du, du barrah –
called with each throw. Curse the dice
for ill fortune, but count out your move
and you were unworthy. Uncle fixed me

with baleful stare the first time I took
his measure. Father swore he would never
play me again. Hairig, grandfather so gentle,
once bit the dice in frustration. Mother
at 92 took me – a wry smile in victory
and she was gone a week later.

This poem has previously appeared in Ararat Magazine and The MacGuffin.

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